1st Edition

Psychoanalytic Readings of Hawthorne’s Romances Narratives of Unconscious Crisis and Transformation

By David B. Diamond Copyright 2022
    202 Pages
    by Routledge

    202 Pages
    by Routledge

    Offering innovative, psychoanalytic readings of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s four romances, this volume systematically applies Freudian theory to present significant new insights into the psychology of Hawthorne’s characters and their fates.

    By critically examining scenes in which the protagonists confront past traumas, Diamond underscores the transformative potential which Hawthorne attributes to encounters with the unconscious. Psychoanalytic narrative technique is employed to interpret the psychogical crises, all hidden by Hawthorne in narrative gaps, in The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, and The Marble Faun. The protagonists' transformations that are illuminated are crucial to an understanding of the trajectory and resolution of the romances.

    The text will benefit both academic and non-academic readers who seek a deeper understanding of the psychology of Hawthorne's romances. It will be of particular interest to educators and researchers of applied psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic technique. Since its conclusions challenge many currently held critical views, this volume is especially relevant to scholars of Hawthorne studies, interdisciplinary literary studies, and 19th century American literature.


    1. Introduction

    2. The Transformations of Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter: "That self was gone!"

    3. The Transformation of Holgrave in The House of the Seven Gables: "The black moment became at once a blissful one"

    4. Zenobia’s Suicide in The Blithedale Romance: "But, all this while, we have been standing by Zenobia’s grave"

    5. Miriam’s Transformation in The Marble Faun: "The tragic dignity of their hour of crime"

    6. Hester's Return to Boston in The Scarlet Letter: "Her whole orb of life both before and after, was connected with this spot, as with the one point that gave it unity"

    Afterword: Hawthorne beyond the Couch



    David B. Diamond is a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist in clinical practice. He was formerly Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and served as Director of Outpatient Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, USA.

    "While this book may not be able to settle the Hawthorne culture wars, it strives to carefully unpack the difficult, unexpected, and salutary transformations made by each of Hawthorne’s romantic protagonists as they encounter and contend with the tragic crises of their unconscious experience. This empathetic approach allows Diamond to offer clear and striking interpretations that underscore the enduring relevance of Hawthorne’s work to all who yearn for resolution and liberation in the face of profound and often prolonged moral and spiritual conflicts."
    - Ariel Clark Silver, Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

    "In this innovative book Dr David Diamond applies his Freudian psychoanalytic understanding to the pivotal emotional transformations major characters undergo in reaction to life crises in Hawthorne’s four classic romances. Closely following Hawthorne’s narrative, the author provides a new and interesting contribution to the extensive Hawthorne literature by filling in psychological gaps in each of these novels. His clear and concise writing will help both the serious scholar and the general reader gain a greater understanding of these American masterpieces."

    - Jonathan F. Borus, Stanley Cobb Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, USA

    "Blessedly free of Freudian terminology, Diamond's study carefully and judiciously incorporates Freud’s important insights to reveal the motivations underlying the actions of the principal characters in Hawthorne's four major novels. In my view, the individual readings supersede all previous psychological interpretations. Older readers will be surprised, perhaps gratified, to discover that Dimmesdale once again claims central importance in The Scarlet Letter." 

    - Frederick Newberry, Professor Emeritus of American Literature, Duquesne University, USA

    "Dr. Diamond writes extremely well, so the book is highly readable. The greatest strength of the work is its originality. The reader of this study will come away with a new appreciation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s deep understanding of human nature. The book is very definitely a valuable addition to the criticism on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work. I felt as if I understood the The Scarlet Letter better and appreciated it more after reading the chapters devoted to it even though I have read the book many times, taught it for at least forty years, and have published on the novel myself."

    - Mimosa Stephenson, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA

     "The great strength of this study is Diamond’s passionate close readings, all of which are informed by a genuine desire to make sense of the Hawthornean text. While articulated in terms of Freudian concepts, Diamond’s close attention to how the main characters are presented in the text is sufficiently attentive to detail to be rewarding in itself."

    - Magnus Ullén,  Professor of English, Stockholm University

    "This is an outstanding work of literary criticism and one of the most insightful books on Hawthorne’s fiction to appear in the last few decades.  The literary characters he discusses become significantly more comprehensive in their psychological depth and in the fullness of their humanity, even as the novels in which they appear more fully reveal the artful nature of their construction."

    - Jonathan A. Cook, American Imago